“Whatever disgrace we may have deserved, it is almost always in our power to re-establish our character.”
The Americans have always been ignorant or callous about peoples’ requirement, who have always made valuable contributions for them during difficult times. Therefore, when the US-led Nato helicopters attacked the Salala checkpost without any provocation that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, it was expected that Washington would apologise and hold an investigation into the tragic incident. But when this did not happen, the people were so incensed that Islamabad was left with no option, but to shut the Nato supply route. These routes have remained closed since the past 170 days.
Then the issue was referred to Parliament that also demanded an apology for the Salala attack, immediate cessation of drone attacks and infiltration inside the Pakistani territory. There was nothing unusual in these demands and any sovereign state would have demanded it.
There have been examples when such unprovoked actions have resulted in unconditional apologies and with it appropriate compensation for those who lost their lives. However, the American arrogance had the better of them and they flatly refused to apologise and instead came out with a phony inquiry that blamed Pakistan for it.
The US Defence Secretary’s outright rejection of the demand to stop the drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory resulted in a deadlock. This has created more complications for this country, but it will definitely have some serious consequences for America as well in the long run. Washington, instead of negotiating the issue with Islamabad, has pitted all the 48 members of the Nato against Pakistan, who are dancing to its tune.
As if that was not enough, the Congress has imposed sanctions not only on civil assistance programmes, but also blocked all military sales to this country that will definitely affect the ongoing war on terror. It would be prudent for Pakistan and the US not to take public stands on the differences that exist between them; for rhetoric has further damaged their relations. Surely, no Pakistani government can afford to surrender before the unjust demands put forward by the Americans. Hence, the relations are bound to suffer for a considerable period of time creating more distrust among the Pakistani citizens.
There is widespread perception that the US is playing the role of a bully; and on occasions, its actions amount to simple blackmail. This may be true to a certain extent, but, for some, this perception has been created by poor US diplomacy, as the Americans continue to behave in an outlandish manner without bothering about the consequences that follow their arrogant behaviour.
When the commanders of Pakistan, US and Afghanistan met in Rawalpindi the other day, it was expected that the deadlock may end, as new rules of engagement will be formed. That will determine the future relationship of these countries. However, while the Americans admit that the key to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan lies with the Pakistani forces, they continue to create conditions that make it more difficult for us to cooperate with the Nato forces in the war-torn country.
Another tricky issue that needs to be resolved remains Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan after the Americans leave it at the mercy of a weak government and some warlords, who control most of the country even today. While the Washington wants to assign an important role to India after it exits from Afghanistan - a proposition that is against Pakistan’s national interest and, therefore, stands little chance of success - Islamabad would be better if it presses for China’s role in the post-US Afghanistan.
Also, it will be better for the Americans to lift the sanctions that have been imposed by them on civil programmes and sale of military equipment to Pakistan, which is the only hope to guarantee peace in Afghanistan.
The US administration also realises that Pakistan controls an extremely important route for trade and commerce, which would help it establish its role for peace and stability in Southeast Asia. All attempts by the US to cowdown this country were bound to fail because at the end of the day, Pakistan’s economy is bound to thrive, keeping in view the rich potential of natural resources that are available in the country.
One hopes that the US and its allies will listen to saner voices and not push Pakistan to the wall, since any reaction by a nuclear-powered state is bound to have serious consequences for the region and the world. However, before the time runs out it would be advisable for the US and Pakistan governments to find a middle way to save their relationship from reaching a breaking point.
To achieve this goal, most of the burden would lie with the Americans, who have botched their relationship with Pakistan due to their arrogance. Otherwise, things could have been settled long ago without reaching the critical point where the Pak-US relationship is presently placed. It would, therefore, be in the fitness of thing if the two countries come out with a fair agreement that is acceptable to the Pakistanis and the Americans; a position from where a productive relationship can be cultivated.
n The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.